Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Devita Davison explains how urban agriculture is transforming Detroit — Student Sustainability Video Festival 81


I know that I wrote "Tuesday I expect to be updating On The Issues shows most of the Democratic candidates have moved left during the campaign, too," but I have a stack of final exams to grade, so I will give my readers a rain check on that topic.  Maybe tomorrow.  Instead, I'm posting the latest episode of Student Sustainability Video Festival, my go-to blogging theme for when I'm correcting final exams or traveling.

Today's video combines two staples of the early years of the blog, urban agriculture and TED talks, How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit | Devita Davison.

There's something amazing growing in the city of Detroit: healthy, accessible, delicious, fresh food. In a spirited talk, fearless farmer Devita Davison explains how features of Detroit's decay actually make it an ideal spot for urban agriculture. Join Davison for a walk through neighborhoods in transformation as she shares stories of opportunity and hope. "These aren't plots of land where we're just growing tomatoes and carrots," Davison says. "We're building social cohesion as well as providing healthy, fresh food.
When I read the topic, I was expecting Davison to mention Brightmoor, one of the neighborhoods featured in HOUR Detroit displays its green thumb; she did not disappoint me.

With luck, I'll return to regular blogging tomorrow.  If not, I have plenty of videos from my students' presentations to choose from.  Either way, off to correct final exams!

Monday, August 19, 2019

July 2019 hottest month on record


I promised "the latest on the climate" today as I wrote that "July 2019 [was] the the hottest month on record."  CBS News helps me deliver on that promise, as it reported July was Earth's hottest month on record last Thursday.

July 2019 is now officially the hottest month on record. The average global temperature last month was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday. CBSN contributing meteorologist Jeff Berardelli explains.
One of the contributing factors Jeff Berardelli cited for the record was the record heat wave in Europe.  He also mentioned record heat in Greenland and Alaska.  I haven't written about either until now, but the resulting record melting of the ice sheet is an event I need to cover here.  Also, my wife and I have a friend in Alaska who has been telling us about how hot the state has been this summer.  It's been warmer there than in here in Detroit, which fits Berardelli's observation that the U.S. Midwest has been either average or cooler than average this summer.  It's one of the ironies that one of the countries most responsible for greenhouse gases is feeling less of their effects and therefore not being prompted to act.

I have two things to say before I return to correcting papers.  First, welcome to the 400 ppm world.  Second, are you scared enough by climate change?  My readers should be.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

'The Facebook Dilemma' earns two Emmy nominations


I made a prediction about "The Facebook Dilemma" on "Frontline" in 'Frontline' updates 'Facebook knows your political affiliation and much more,' the top post of the eighth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
I have the same reaction to this documentary that I had to "Putin's Revenge" on "Frontline," that it will earn at least one News and Documentary Emmy Award nomination.  I was right about that prediction, as "Putin's Revenge" earned two nominations and I am confident enough that the same will happen to "The Facebook Dilemma" that I am holding off embedding Part Two until the News and Documentary Emmy nominations are announced.  As for the specific awards, I expect it will definitely earn a nomination for either Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary or Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary, and possibly for Best Documentary, Outstanding Writing, or Outstanding Research.  As I wrote before, "I am not going to hold my breath.  It's a long time until the end of July, when the nominees are announced, and the competition will be stiff."
As I mentioned in a comment on He Did What… ! ? ! at Kunstler's blog, that prediction came true:  "'The Facebook Dilemma' on 'Frontline'...has been nominated for two News and Documentary Emmy Awards," Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary and Outstanding Research, both categories I called back in March.  *Buffs nails*

Of course, a nomination is not a win, so follow over the jump for its competition in these two categories.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The third Saturday of August is World Honey Bee Day


Happy World Honey Bee Day!*  Here's the updated holiday description from National Day Calendar.
World Honey Bee Day on the third Saturday in August brings a buzzing celebration for beekeepers, honey lovers, and all blooming things.

The day recognizes both the honey bee and the beekeepers who tend the hives. It also encourages everyone to enjoy and buy locally grown honey.

Another important part of the day includes learning about honey bees and providing them with a supportive environment. When we plant wildflowers, orchards, and other flowering plants, we support pollinators such as honey bees. They depend on the nectar of a variety of plants for their survival. Conversely, we depend on honeybees for our survival! Without their pollinating abilities, many nutritious plans wouldn’t reproduce.

Besides, their delicious honey is an added bonus. We enjoy it in our baking, teas, and confections.

Honey bees do sting, but only if they perceive a threat – damage to their hive or being swatted at. Since they seek sweet nectar, sugary drinks and sweets will attract honey bees when flowers are not blooming yet.  Keep beverages covered. If a honey bee comes close, either hold still or move slowly away. The honey bee will fly along to the next sweet thing as long as it doesn’t feel threatened.
Since I enjoy including clips from local news shows about national and world days, I'm sharing two videos from Good Morning Sacramento that were uploaded for last year's celebration.

Here's part one, World Honey Bee Day.

Sara Foust from The Bee Box is teaching us about the Bees, on World Honey Bee Day!
In case that wasn't enough, here's World Honey Bee Day Pt. 2!

Sara Foust from The Bee Box is teaching us recipes using local honey!
I thought both clips made for a fun combination of learning from the guest and goofiness from the hosts.

CNN joined in celebrating the day by offering Seven simple things you can do to save the bees on National Honeybee Day.
Bee lovers are abuzz on National Honeybee Day, the time of year when we honor nature's hardest-working pollinator.

People owe a lot to bees -- namely, many of the foods we enjoy, like strawberries, avocados and broccoli. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that every 1 in 3 bites of food exists because of animal pollinators, and bees lead the charge.

Luckily, honeybees aren't in danger of extinction like other bee species, but their health is critical to the survival of all bees. When honeybees are infected with pathogens or parasites, they infect native bees that are more vulnerable to extinction, said Alixandra Prybyla, science director of the Honeybee Conservancy.

"Saving the bees" seems like a lofty goal, but you don't have to be a beekeeper to make an impact. Here are some small changes you can make to keep bees healthy.
  • Plant a garden of any size
  • Keep the mowing to a minimum
  • Get to know your local beekeeper
  • Make a bee bath
  • Join a citizen science project
  • Avoid products grown with pesticides
  • Don't call pest control if you see a swarm
All good advice.

Don't forget that today is also National Nonprofit Day.  To celebrate, I'm asking my readers to please match my $5.00 donation to Coffee Party USA.  Thank you.

*There is also a World Bee Day.  Since bees have been a continuing topic of this blog, they can have two days to celebrate them on this blog.

Donate to Coffee Party USA for National Nonprofit Day 2019


Happy National Nonprofit Day!  As I did last year, I am celebrating by asking my readers to donate to my favorite nonprofit, Coffee Party USA.  I am a director and officer of the organization and I just donated $5.00 in addition to my regular $10.00 monthly dues.*  I am asking my readers to please match my $5.00 donation.

I described where your money and mine will go in An early happy 9th birthday to Coffee Party USA and Happy Irish Coffee Day!
Your donation will allow "you to be a part of the important work of Coffee Party USA as we empower and connect communities to reclaim our government for the people."  It will go to improving our website, the new version of which Coffee Party USA debuted in October and registering people to vote with our partners TurboVote and National Voter Registration Day.  There are municipal and some state elections coming up this year and people need to be registered and reminded to vote in them.
Thank you in advance for your matching donation.

Once again, Happy National Nonprofit Day and Coffee Party on!


Stay tuned for an entry about World Honey Bee Day.

*I also donated $40.00 last month to match the $40.00 I paid to vote in the 2019 Saturn Awards.  I decided this year that I would make a matching donation to Coffee Party USA for any donation I made to any other nonprofit this year.  That means that I will match the renewal of my membership to the Detroit Zoo later this month.  That would be $88.00 for a dual membership.  I'm not asking my readers to match those donations, but if any of you did, the Coffee Party and I would appreciate you and your donation!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Company Man explains the rise and demise of Shopko, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse


Earlier this week, Company Man asked The Decline of Shopko...What Happened?  It's a good opportunity to revisit Shopko liquidating, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse from another perspective.

In June of 2019, after more than 50 years of business, Shopko closed the last of its stores. This video talks about how they grew so big and theorizes what went wrong in the end.
I think Company Man did well with the sources he had — he's a good researcher — but he obviously didn't have personal experience with the chain the way Brick Immortar did, who cited "updating their identity with ever changing slogans, branding, store closures/remodels/acquisitions and also leadership."  However, he was able to get me to learn something of personal interest.  While I had never shopped at a Shopko, I had shopped at Pamida, who operated two locations near my old Irish Hills home, Brooklyn and Tecumseh.  I moved just before the sale and a year before the conversion of Pamida to Shopko Hometown, so I missed seeing the changeover.  Thanks to Company Man, the news finally caught up with me.

While the Retail Apocalypse rolls on, I plan on taking a break from it for a few days, as tomorrow is World Honey Bee Day and National Nonprofit Day, Sunday will be time for an entertainment feature about this year's Emmy nominees, I will examine July 2019 being the the hottest month on record while Greta Thunberg sails for New York, and Tuesday I expect to be updating On The Issues shows most of the Democratic candidates have moved left during the campaign, too.  The leftward drift continues.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Hickenlooper leaves the presidential contest, considers run for Senate


At 6:00 A.M. EDT yesterday, FiveThirtyEight published Our First 2020 Drop-Out Draft.  The very first candidate chosen was John Hickenlooper.
geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, elections analyst): OK, so my first pick is former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. He had just 13,000 donors at the end of June and is very unlikely to make the September debate, considering he also has just one qualifying poll (he still needs three more). Plus, he has an exit ramp available to him: running for Senate in Colorado.

And it seems like Hickenlooper might be open to the idea of mounting a challenge to GOP Sen. Cory Gardner. There’s also some evidence that this might be a good move for Hickenlooper, too. A poll released Tuesday found him ahead of Gardner, 51 percent to 38 percent, and another survey this week showed Hickenlooper leading the crowded primary field by about 50 percentage points.

nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, elections analyst): Good pick.

Yeah, Hickenlooper has resisted calls for him to run for Senate for a loooong time.

He even said back in February that “I’m not cut out to be a senator.” It seemed pretty definitive.

But then last week, he appeared to subtly change his tune when his communications director said “he hasn’t closed the door to anything.”

To me, that’s a sign that he may be preparing to jump ship.
...
sarahf: OK, Geoff … so does Hickenlooper drop out before October? Or … before Iowa?

geoffrey.skelley: I think he drops out before October after failing to qualify for the September debate.

sarahf: Alright, you heard it here first folks!
We did indeed.  It took only a day for Geoffrey Skelley to be proven right, as MSNBC's Velshi & Ruhle reported just a few hours ago Hickenlooper Drops Out Of 2020 Race, Giving Senate Run 'Serious Thought'.

John Hickenlooper, former Colorado governor, drops out of crowded 2020 Democratic presidential race. He says he intends to give "some serious thought" to the possibility of a US Senate run in Colorado.
About the only thing Skelley got wrong was Hickenlooper staying in until he found out he didn't qualify for the September debate.  Otherwise, he called Hickenlooper being the first candidate to drop out after the draft.  Congratulations.

I also thought he'd drop out soon, as I wrote in On The Issues shows most of the Democratic candidates have moved left during the campaign, too.
Despite the shift in scores, he is now the most moderate candidate remaining.  That might change, as Politico reported Hickenlooper campaign in shambles earlier this month.  That makes him my pick to drop out next, probably when he fails to qualify for the third debate or runs out of money, whichever happens first.
Mike Gravel dropping out screwed up my prediction that he'd be next, but I was only one candidate off.  Besides, I think my readers might forgive me for forgetting about Gravel.

Hickenlooper was one of the candidates Full Frontal with Samantha Bee mentioned in A Message to Democratic Presidential Candidates: Run For Senate, Goddammit!

Of the teeming herd of Democrats running for president, more than a few could direct their ambitions elsewhere...like maybe to the Senate where they could actually make a difference? Or one of those crazy mud races, if they insist on making a mess of things.
If Hickenlooper runs for Senate, I'm sure Bee will be pleased, along with many other Democrats, including me.

Follow over the jump for the drink and infographics I'm retiring now that Hickenlooper is out of the presidential contest.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The bond markets give another recession signal as the 2-year and 10-year yield curve inverts


I told my readers to "stay tuned" at the end of The part of the yield curve the Federal Reserve watches just inverted, sending another recession signal back in March.
The economic storm clouds are not just visible on the horizon, but building.  All that I'm waiting for to say that the weather is advancing on us is an inversion of the 2-year and 10-year Treasuries.  When that happens, I'll report it.
It just happened.  CNBC has the story in Bond markets sends (sic) recession warning signal as yield curve inverts.

CNBC's Steve Liesman breaks down why investors are still concerned about falling yields and what it may mean for the economy.
Joe Kernan expressed a lot of wishful thinking about the economy, which Steve Liesman called him out on.  I've complained about Kernan's opinions before along with CNBC's perma-bull editorial stance and this is another instance of both.

Bloomberg Markets and Finance displayed more anxiety than CNBC this morning in Fed Must Act on Inverted Yield Curve, Credit Suisse's Golub Says.

Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. equity strategist at Credit Suisse, discusses the Treasury yield curve, Federal Reserve policy and the U.S. economy. He speaks on "Bloomberg Surveillance."
Both CNBC and Bloomberg think that the Federal Reserve will lower the Fed Funds rate and Golub thinks they should do it ASAP.

Even before the 2-year and 10-year yields inverted, CNBC uploaded The yield curve is a good indicator of a recession, rate strategist says yesterday.

The rally in treasury bonds, which pushes yields lower, continues to fuel investor's angst. Priya Misra, global head of rate strategy at TD Securities, Jack Caffrey, equity portfolio manager at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, and Matt Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management, join "Squawk Box" to discuss.
Going back even farther, NPR noted in June that the 3-month and 10-year remained inverted for three months in What Just Happened Also Occurred Before The Last 7 U.S. Recessions. Reason To Worry?
But on Sunday, an inauspicious milestone was achieved: The yield curve remained inverted for three months, or an entire quarter, which has for half a century been a clear signal that the economy is heading for recession in the next nine to 18 months, according to Campbell Harvey, a Duke University finance professor who spoke to NPR on Sunday. His research in the mid-1980s first linked yield curve inversions to recessions.

"That has been associated with predicting a recession for the last seven recessions," Harvey said. "From the 1960s, this indicator has been reliable in terms of foretelling a recession, and also importantly, it has not given any false signals yet."
That was after I wrote Experts call for high risk of recession by end of 2020 because of trade policy at the beginning of June.  I'm going to be a good environmentalist and recycle what I wrote then.
I'm going to repeat two points.  One, "when I wrote 'trade, which I haven't written enough about, is likely to be straw that breaks the camel's back of the economic expansion and that a recession is inevitable,' first in I wrote about the yield curve inverting and sending another recession signal and again in MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' and CNBC's 'Fast Money' expound on the U.S.-China trade war and its fallout, that's the kind of effect I was expecting."  Two, "I've been bearish and on recession watch since December 2017 and still stand behind the prediction I made in Ten years ago, we were partying like it was 1929. Are we about to do it again?...'I'm moving my recession call to between July and December 2019.'"  If that happens, it will be closer to December than July, which is only a month away, but I will not revise my forecast until October at the earliest.  I'm even more confident that a recession is coming, even if it takes a bit longer than I expect.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Trump administration weakening enforcement of Endangered Species Act


One would think that the United Nations report warning that one million species could go extinct in the next century, which I last mentioned in Verge Science and Depeche Mode on the Insect Apocalypse, would elicit more concern among people and their governments about saving endangered species.  That doesn't seem to be the case in the United States, or at least with the Trump administration, which is thinking of weakening the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  WUSA uploaded an editorial on the proposal this morning, Changes coming to The Endangered Species Act.

According to a recent United Nations report, more than 1 million animal and plant species are at a major risk of facing extinction. The Trump administration has announced that it will be making major changes to The Endangered Species Act. Some of these changes include economic costs being considered when determining if a species should be protected and another weakens already existing protections of threatened groups.
The good news is that Trump and the rest of the executive branch can't change the law itself; it can only change how it interprets the act, including the regulations it uses to enforce it.  The bad news is that the executive branch can do a lot with regulations.  NPR has more on that last point in Trump Administration Makes Major Changes To Protections For Endangered Species.
In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation's premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.
...
One of the changes will allow economic costs to be taken into account while determining whether a species warrants protection. Another will weaken the initial protections given to species deemed to be threatened, one step shy of being endangered.

The changes will apply only to future listing decisions.
...
Many of the changes the Trump administration is rolling out address shared administrative concerns about the act, says Jake Li, the director for biodiversity at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. Others, he says, are problematic and weaken the bedrock law's effectiveness.

Among them is limiting which habitat — and how much of it — gets considered in determining whether a species is endangered. Land a species currently occupies would be the priority. But wildlife advocates say that could make it harder to account for threats from the warming climate, which has shrunk habitat for some species and will force others to migrate to new areas.
I'm with Jake Li; calculating economic costs, weakening initial protections, and limiting considerations of habitat are all factors that will reduce the ability of the ESA to protect threatened and endangered species, exactly the opposite of what the experts and I think is needed.  Fortunately, these changes are being challenged in court.
Numerous environmental groups and state attorneys general vow to sue the administration over the changes, alleging they are illegal because they're not grounded in scientific evidence.

"We don't take these challenges lightly," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra during a conference call. "We don't look to pick a fight every time this administration decides to take an action. But we challenge these actions by this administration because it is necessary."
I wish them both skill and luck. They and the organisms the ESA protects will need it.

Monday, August 12, 2019

GNC to close 900 stores, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse


I began the month warning my readers that Bed Bath & Beyond is facing extinction.  That got people's attention, but CNBC's characterization was a bit extreme, as the chain only failed to make a profit for the first time since 1992 and is planning on closing only 40 stores.  At the same time, another chain announced it was closing far more stores.  WPXI-TV News Pittsburgh reported last month GNC to close up to 900 stores, up to half of mall locations.

The Pittsburgh headquartered vitamin and supplement store GNC has announced it will close up to 900 stores in mall locations.
I think the video description needs some clarification, which I'm getting from USA Today.
“I think it could be likely that we'll reduce our mall count by a nearly half,” said Tricia Tolivar, GNC chief financial officer. “So we've got a little over 800 malls today and over the long-term, we could bring that closer to 400 to 500.”
It's not only half of the mall locations closing, but also half of the announced closings are in malls.  WPXI's description could have meant two different things, but it actually meant both.

In addition, GNC has already lost locations from an earlier wave of closings.
In the first six months of 2019, company records show 192 company-owned and franchise locations have already closed.
It turns out this wave of closings has been in the works for a while.
GNC officials had announced in November 2018 that they would close up to 900 stores over the next three years in the U.S. and Canada as leases expire. Now, looking at the current foot-traffic trends in malls,  "it's likely that we will end up closer to the top end of our original optimization estimate," GNC Chairman and CEO Ken Martindale said.
So it seems that the loss of foot traffic in dead malls, which is hurting Ruby Tuesday and other restaurant chains in malls, is hitting GNC, also a staple of dead malls.  It was only a matter of time.

It strikes me that GNC issued this latest announcement one day before I posted 12,000 stores are likely to close this year, including at least 313 Fred's, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse.  The USA Today article has something to say about that, too.
Overall across the retail sector, more than 7,400 store closings are already in the works or completed so far in 2019, which is 27% more than all of 2018, according to Coresight Research's latest store closings report.
7,400 down, 4,600 to go, and there are five months left.  The Retail Apocalypse rolls on.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Coffee Party USA announces the nominees for the Golden Coffee Cups for the 2017-2018 television season


Earlier today, I told my readers to "stay tuned for the nominees for the Golden Coffee Cups for television I promised in Coffee Party USA announces the winners of the 2018 Golden Coffee Cups for movies in April.  Better late than never!"  Yes, I promised these awards in May.  It took me until August, after I had already started to blog about this year's Emmy nominees to actually follow through.  As I already wrote, better late than never to continue to recognize the best of politics in entertainment.

It's time to be a good environmentalist and reuse with slight modification my introduction from Coffee Party Entertainment Awards movie nominees for 2018.  The volunteers of Coffee Party USA and I have been voting for the past three weeks on which television shows and people to recognize for The Coffee Party Entertainment Awards AKA The Golden Coffee Cups. We came up with nominees in five categories showcasing the best in television shows about politics and government from the 2017-2018 season.  To see them, follow over the jump.

Maher, Colbert, and Kimmel on National Presidential Joke Day 2019


Happy National Presidential Joke DayNational Day Calendar explains the day.
National Presidential Joke Day is observed annually on August 11.

This day recognizes the humor often found and yet not so appreciated in the highest office in the land. With a nod to the blunders, take a look back at some of our presidents’ social missteps. Many of them awkward. While in the moment, the Commander in Chief might not find them so funny. Looking back, sometimes, they’re downright hilarious mistakes.
...
Sometimes the gaffes are vice presidential. At a Trenton, New Jersey spelling bee in 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle misspelled the word potato.

During an election year, the scrutiny of the constituency can be brutal. The presidential candidates should be prepared to handle the presidential joke.  The citizenry will be listening!
Two years ago, I focused on the President.  Last year, it was the Vice President.  This year, I return to Trump with a side helping of Democratic candidates and a dash of Pence.

I begin with Bill Maher on Real Time's Monologue: Tragedy Meets Trump.

Bill recaps the top stories of the week, including President Trump's lackluster response to the gun massacres in Dayton and El Paso.
That was on Friday.  Stephen Colbert got started even earlier with Trump: My Rhetoric Brings People Together.

What the world needs now... Is probably a whole lot less of President Trump's attempts to "bring people together."
Colbert opened his monologue by mocking the Democratic candidates in Dem Candidates Take Desperate Measures To Qualify For Next Debate.

Only 8 candidates have qualified for the next Democratic Presidential debate so far, which means Michael Bennet, Andrew Yang and others from the crowded field must do everything they can to break through before the deadline.
Colbert spoke a bit too soon, as Andrew Yang qualified for the September debate(s) the same day Colbert's monologue was uploaded to YouTube.  Oops!  Just the same, Colbert managed to pack in a lot of Trump's gaffes, mistakes, and complete fabrications in the second half of the monologue.

Colbert returned to milking Trump for humor along with a dash of the Democratic candidates in the second half of the monologue, Joe Biden: Trump Offers No Moral Leadership.

In a speech today, the former VP denounced President Trump's response to America's latest mass shootings, drawing unfavorable comparisons between Trump's divisive language and the strong actions taken by former Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama.
I can't let this go without a joke at the Vice President's expense.  Fortunately, there's one in This Week in Unnecessary Censorship from Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Once again, we've bleeped and blurred all the week's big TV moments whether they need it or not. This week we feature Chris Harrison, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Tiffany Haddish and more.
I needed a good laugh and today's post provided a bunch of them.  I hope National TV Talk Show Host Day is just as fun in two months.  Until then, stay tuned for the nominees for the Golden Coffee Cups for television I promised in Coffee Party USA announces the winners of the 2018 Golden Coffee Cups for movies in April.  Better late than never!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Celebrate World Lion Day with lion videos from Nat Geo WILD, PBS Eons, and Beyond The Trailer


Happy World Lion Day!
Today, we invite you to celebrate one of the most majestic species to walk the earth. It’s World Lion Day!  Each year on August 10, lion lover’s around the globe use this day to bring awareness to the declining population of lions. Furthermore, we suggest learning about ways to help the preservation of lion habitats, as well.

The lion species, also known as Panthera leo, is one of the largest species on earth. Typically weighing 300 to 550 pounds, the lion can vary from a light buff color to a deep reddish brown color.  Surprisingly, there is also the rare white lion found in the wild. Easily recognized by it’s thick mane, the lion is also muscular and has a loud, deafening roar.  Unfortunately, as majestic lions my seem, they are slowly disappearing.

As far back as 3 million years ago, lions roamed freely across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East .  Today, loins are live freely in their natural habitat in only two locations, Africa and Asia.  In addition, some lions are bread in captivity.

Lions are listed as a vulnerable species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Though they are not under the classification of an endangered species, they still face obstacles that endanger their survival.

Currently, there are about 30,000 to 100,000 lions left on earth.  In the past few decades, lion populations have decreased almost by half.  Trophy hunting and loss of natural habitat are the primary reasons for the diminishing lion population.

OBSERVATION OF #WorldLionDay

Volunteering at a local zoo that houses lions is a great way to learn more about the care required to protect lions.  Volunteering  or making a donation to a conservation group is another way to show support for the good work organizations do. Whatever you do, don’t forget to share your day’s celebration on social media using #WorldLionDay.

HISTORY OF #WorldLionDay

In 2013, co-founders Dereck and Beverly Joubert of Big Cat Initiative and National Geographic began a partnership to form World Lion Day.  Also known as the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, the partnership aims to protect these wild cats in their natural habitat. Furthermore, the initiative also works on safety measures with communities that live near wild cats.
It's time lions joined Bald eagles, giraffes, rhinos, gorillas, and elephants as having their day observed at my blog.  Speaking of which, July 29 is World Tiger Day.  Sorry, Earth Overshoot Day got the holiday love that day this year.  Next year.

Follow over the jump for three videos about lions, including one also about tigers, to celebrate this international day.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Nine Emmy nominations for 'Veep' on National Veep Day


Happy National Veep Day!
National Day Calendar informs me that today is National Veep Day, the anniversary of August 9, 1974, when "Vice President Gerald Ford became President of the United States upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon."  It's a day "designated to give recognition to the succession plan of the President of the United States."  If I had known about this last year, I might have written about the HBO comedy "Veep" and its Emmy nominations.  Unfortunately, "Veep" isn't eligible this year, so it won't defend its five Emmy Awards.  It also means I won't write any more about the final season of "Veep," which hasn't aired yet.  Darn.
The final season of "Veep" has aired and has earned nine Emmy Award nominations, so it's time for me to be a good environmentalist and reycle this idea.  The nine nominations are:
  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series for Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series for Tony Hale
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series for Anna Chlumsky
  • Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series for Peter MacNicol
  • Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Program (Half-Hour)
  • Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (Half-Hour) And Animation
While this is not the 17 nominations "Veep" earned two years ago to lead nominated comedies at the Primetime Emmy Awards, it is a respectable showing.  "Veep" still has an opportunity to win five Emmy Awards as it did two years ago.  Of those, it is returning to contend for four of them, Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series, and Outstanding Production Design for a Narrative Program (Half-Hour or Less).  It failed to win a nomination in the fifth category it won two years ago, Outstanding Cinematography for A Single-Camera Series (Half-Hour), losing out to "Ballers," "Fleabag," "Homecoming," "Insecure," "Russian Doll," and "What We Do in the Shadows."  I can at least take comfort in seeing two Saturn Award nominees, "Russian Doll" and "What We Do in the Shadows," among the nominees, so speculative fiction is well-represented.

Still, "Veep" will have very stiff competition for its nominations, particularly from "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," which won eight Emmy Awards last year and is nominated for twenty this year, the most of any comedy both seasons.  It is contending with "Veep" for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series, Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series, where it has two nominees to one for "Veep," and Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series, and is the returning winner in four of them, Comedy Series, Lead Actress, Supporting Actress, and Casting.  There are other match-ups to watch in comedy particularly between "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and "Barry," but this is the one I plan on looking at closest when I examine all the comedy nominees and make predictions.  Stay tuned.

Previous entries in this series.

Andrew Yang talks about robot bartenders as an example of automation coming for our jobs


The same day Andrew Yang qualified for the September debate, he appeared on Tipsy Bartender, where Skyy interviewed him about automation and universal basic income.  Watch Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang on Robot Bartenders.

Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang stops by to try Giant's Milk, and to talk about bartenders being automated away!
I clicked on this video just because I was curious and thought it would be a novelty.  I ended up watching all of it in one sitting.  As frivolous as Skyy can be, for example, making cocktails for Trump and "Deez Nuts" four years ago, he can surprise me occasionally, such as when he recommended "Blackfish" five years ago.  This is one of those times, where he displayed more seriousness and depth than I can recall seeing from him since I discovered his channel six years ago.  As for Yang, he handled himself very well in a situation where he could have been the butt of Skyy's jokes, elevating Skyy to his level instead of coming down to Skyy's.  Congratulations!

By the way, robot bartenders have been in Las Vegas for two years now.  The Las Vegas Sun showed one of them at work in Tipsy Robot Bar Las Vegas.

One of the two robots at the Tipsy Robot bar inside of the Planet Hollywood makes a gin and tonic. The bar is the first of its kind in the U.S.
Lots of commenters at the video thought the bartender was too slow, but the bar said the robots can handle 120 drinks an hour, two per minute.  That's fast enough.  Welcome to science fiction times, AKA SciFi is Now.

Of course, Skyy can't have a video without a drink, so he made one specially for Yang, who is a Game of Thrones fan, Giant's Milk.
HERE'S THE RECIPE:
Goldschlager
Vodka
Hennessy
Fireball
Godiva White Chocolate
Rum Chata
Kahlua
Baileys
I like that a lot better than the Old Fashioned as Yang's drink for the Democratic debates, so I'm recommending it for him from now on.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Goodbye, Gravelanche as Mike Gravel drops out


In Drinks for the candidates who didn't make the debates, I snarked "I also want to be prepared for when they eventually drop out, just as I did for Eric Swalwell earlier this month."  It only took a week, as Mike Gravel dropped out Tuesday.  CBS News has the story in Mike Gravel's former campaign manager reflects on end of run.

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel officially ended his 2020 presidential bid by endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. The campaign was almost entirely run by teenagers on social media. One of those teens, Gravel's former campaign manager David Oks, joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" to talk about how he convinced the 89-year-old to run in the first place.
Considering that On The Issues rates Gravel as tying Sanders as the socially most liberal candidate, I'm not surprised he's endorsing Sanders.  His support of Tulsi Gabbard doesn't make sense in terms of the numbers, although she has become more liberal socially as well, as On The Issues now rates her social score as 85, seven points to the left of where she was last month and fifteen points to the left of where she was in June.  However, noninterventionism is her signature issue and she has a radical demeanor, even as her economic stances have become more moderate (her economic score at On The Issues is now 35, five points to the right of where it was two months ago), so those make Gravel's support more comprehensible.*

Speaking of Gabbard, Samantha Bee name-checked her in Democratic Candidates, Please Drop Out on Our Show!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TBS’s late-night hit Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is pleased to welcome all Democratic candidates to officially drop out of the race on live TV.

Now that all eligible candidates have had their chance to debate the important issues like healthcare, immigration, and if Zendaya is really Meechee, it is time for the party to begin to coalesce around one singular candidate who can take on President (Predator) Trump.

With upwards of two dozen candidates in the race, campaign announcements have had to get creative, and many flocked to announce on late night shows. However, Samantha Bee and her team are proud to welcome candidates to drop out on Full Frontal for the first time in history. She will shower them with balloons, music, and a live studio audience! It’ll be a party that the whole country can be proud of. Plus, it’s a great place to get rid of all their campaign’s unused merch.

“Honestly, I’m not sure all the candidates can even fit on my set,” said Bee. “But if they can stagger the dropouts, I’d love to throw them each the biggest, most kickass drop out party you’ve ever seen. Plus there will be a cake of their choosing! Except for red velvet—red velvet is for closers.”
Too bad Gravel didn't take Bee up on her offer.  That would have been more fun to watch than his former campaign manager doing it for him on CBS News.

Now that Gravel has dropped out, it's time to retire the following graphics and recipes.  Follow over the jump.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

'The Great Hack' explores how online data affects public opinion including the Cambridge Analytica scandal


This morning, I ran into a report from CBS News that examined the power of Facebook and its ability to "move fast and break things," "The Great Hack": new Netflix documentary examines Cambridge Analytica scandal.

"The Great Hack" is a new documentary on Netflix. The film specifically sheds new light on the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal. Carole Cadwalladr broke that story for The Guardian and The Observer. She joins CBSN's Elaine Quijano to discuss the scandal.
As George Takei would say, oh, my!  This looks like a video I should watch and recommend to my readers.

MSNBC's Velshi & Ruhle also examined the documentary in last month's ‘The Great Hack’: Film Explores How Online Data Affects Public Opinion.

A new Netflix documentary called “The Great Hack” is looking at how your online data is used to influence public opinion and elections. The director, Jehane Noujam, and producer, Karim Amer, join Stephanie Ruhle to discuss online data and privacy amid Facebook’s record-breaking fine from the FTC. NYU Stern School of Business professor Scott Galloway joins with his take.
Carole Cadwalladr, Jehane Noujam, Karim Amer, and Stephanie Ruhle all touched on Facebook and other big tech companies being more powerful than at least some nation-states.  That's a feature of cyberpunk, which means we are living in science-fiction times AKA "SciFi is Now," as my friend Nebris would say.

I am finishing today's entry by sharing The Great Hack | Official Trailer from Netflix.

They took your data. Then they took control. The Great Hack uncovers the dark world of data exploitation through the compelling personal journeys of players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal.
I'm sure I'll be writing more about this documentary when I review the top political documentaries of 2019 and then next year's Oscar and Emmy nominees.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Vox visualizes student loan debt and examines proposals to cancel it


I seem to have stumbled onto a hot issue.  Yesterday, I wrote Silly and serious about student loan debt from Samantha Bee and NBC News after not having written about the topic since 2018.  This morning, I see that Vox has uploaded All student debt in the US, visualized to its YouTube channel.  Please join me in watching it.

What if all of this debt was canceled? This is what that would look like.
...
Student loan debt has increased exponentially in the past few decades. So now, some Democratic presidential candidates propose canceling those debts — all $1.6 trillion of it. But is this a good idea? Who exactly does it benefit?
In the video description, Vox links to four articles on its website that examine the arguments in detail.  I recommend reading Democrats’ ongoing argument about free college, explained.  It looks at the plans of both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren after making the following points about the issue.
It’s a debate that cleaves two philosophically distinct approaches to politics: one a mentality of hoarding scarce resources for the most efficient uses, and the other a broad, aspirational vision of public luxury in which there’s little need to quibble about exactly who gets what.

But it also speaks to the generational divide in Democratic politics. To older voters, accustomed to the cheap college tuition that prevailed decades ago, “free college” sounds quixotic and frivolous; to younger people burdened by today’s much higher tuition structure and loan-based financing system, it’s a clear commitment to fix a broken system.

Yet the federal government is a secondary actor in higher education. State governments allowed higher education cost structures to rise even while pulling back on funding, pushing more costs onto students. It’s ultimately state governments that will need to decide whether they’re willing to spend more on higher education, cut costs, or both. The candidates arguing about this are running for president, not governor, and when you look under the hoods of their plans, there may be less to the contrast than the broad philosophical discussion would suggest.
Vox then recommends articles about each candidate's proposal, beginning with Elizabeth Warren has the biggest free college plan yet.  Its takeaway is "Warren doesn’t just want tuition-free college. She also wants to cancel millions of Americans’ student debt."

Vox then recommends two more articles, Bernie Sanders’s free college proposal just got a whole lot bigger, which describes how "Sanders wants to cancel all student loan debt," and Wonks hate Bernie Sanders’s debt relief plan. That’s the point.  The latter observes that "Angering Democratic policy wonks seems to be a feature, not a bug, of Sanders’s campaign."  It's also part of his appeal.  Sanders may not be the most liberal candidate according to his votes, but he has the most radical attitude.  This includes telling off the experts.

If this issue stays salient throughout the Democratic nomination contest, I'll be sure to write more about it.  In the meantime, stay tuned.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Silly and serious about student loan debt from Samantha Bee and NBC News


I've mentioned student loan debt as an issue only twice before on this blog, most recently in Ten years ago, we were partying like it was 1929. Are we about to do it again?
Student loan debt is indeed a problem, one that I've mentioned only once on this blog thanks to Benie Sanders campaigning on the issue in Ann Arbor two years ago.  However, I doubt it will send the economy into recession the way the housing bust did in 2007-2008, as the value of housing declining contributed to reduced consumption then caused a financial crisis, which made the recession worse.  That's because the value of a college education will not decline before a recession, so that won't drag down the valuation of the debt as an asset, putting strain on the financial system and causing a panic to start a recession.  Instead, the causality will go the other way; the recession will hit first, causing people to lose their jobs and make them unable to pay.  That will cause a debt crisis in the financial system.  At least banks can't foreclose on and repossess people's educations, so the students will still have them, unlike all the people who lost their homes, although that's small consolation to the graduate whose increased earnings from their education have gone to paying off the debt to get their education.  That alone is reducing consumption and home ownership, slowing down the economy.
My last point showed up in two videos last week, one funny, the other dead serious.  I begin with the funny one, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee's Student Loan Debt: It’s Not Just For Millennials Anymore!*

Student loans: Is it time to forgive and forget? When it comes to 2020 election issues, nothing unites voters like crushing student loan debt. Just take it from Extremely Young™ Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg: student loan debt sucks, fam!
That was the silly video; now for the serious one from NBC News, How Student Debt Is Crippling Young Farmers And The Future Of Agriculture.

Young farmers like Lauren Manning struggle to prosper because they are buried in student loan debt, yet the average age of U.S. farmers approaches 60 and they have no one to pass the torch to.
I couldn't resist the connection between student loan debt and farming.  As someone who is fond of Commoner's Laws, I think it's a good example of two them; everything is connected to everything else and there is no free lunch.  It's not just the graduates who are paying for those loans; it's all the rest of us, too.  The only question is how.

*Bee has another video about last week's Democratic debates that covers immigration.  I might get to that one later this week.

My 2019 Saturn Awards votes and predictions


When I reached the end of 'Better Call Saul' vs. 'Riverdale' for Best Action/Thriller TV Series again plus home entertainment nominees at the 2019 Saturn Awards, I wrote "That's it for the Saturn Awards for July.  The next one will probably be in August, when I post my actual votes."  It's August, so I'm following through and adding my predictions, just as I did in 2018.  I begin with my votes for the movie nominees.

Best Action/Adventure Film: My vote — Mission: Impossible - Fallout.  My prediction — Mission: Impossible - Fallout.
Best Actor in a Film: My vote — Robert Downey Jr. (Avengers: Endgame).  My prediction — Robert Downey Jr. (Avengers: Endgame).
Best Actress in a Film: My vote — Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns).  My prediction — Brie Larson (Captain Marvel).
Best Animated Film Release: My vote — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse.  My prediction — Incredibles 2.
Best Comic to Motion Picture Release: My vote — Aquaman.  My prediction — Captain Marvel.
Best Fantasy Film Release: My vote — Mary Poppins Returns.  My prediction — Aladdin.
Best Film Costume Design: My vote — Sandy Powell (Mary Poppins Returns).  My prediction — Aladdin.
Best Film Director: My vote — Jordan Peele (Us).  My prediction — Anthony Russo & Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame).
Best Film Editing: My vote — Christopher Tellefsen (A Quiet Place).  My prediction — Avengers: Endgame or John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum.
Best Film Make Up: My vote — Suspiria (Mark Coulier, Fernanda Perez).  My prediction — The Dead Don't Die or Pet Sematary.
Best Film Music: My vote — Marc Shaiman (Mary Poppins Returns).  My prediction — Alan Silvestri.
Best Film Production Design: My vote — John Myhre (Mary Poppins Returns).  My prediction — Aladdin or Avengers: Endgame.
Best Film Special / Visual Effects: My vote — Ready Player One (TBD).  My prediction — Avengers: Endgame or Godzilla: King of Monsters.
Best Film Writing: My vote — Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski (A Quiet Place).  My prediction — Avengers: Endgame.
Best Horror Film Release: My vote — A Quiet Place.  My prediction — Us.
Best Independent Film Release: My vote — American Animals.  My prediction — Mandy.
Best International Film Release: My vote — Border.  My prediction — Shadow.
Best Performance By A Younger Actor in a Film: My vote — Millicent Simmonds (A Quiet Place).  My prediction — Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Far From Home).
Best Science Fiction Film Release: My vote — Solo: A Star Wars Story.  My prediction — Ready Player One.
Best Supporting Actor in a Film: My vote — Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns).  My prediction — Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War).
Best Supporting Actress in a Film: My vote — Amber Heard (Aquaman).  My prediction — Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Endgame).
Best Thriller Film Release: My vote — Destroyer.  My prediction — Bad Times at The El Royale.

Follow over the jump for my votes and predictions in the television and streaming categories.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

'Point of View: Sandy Hook Promise' among Emmy nominees for Outstanding Commercial


Reading and watching the news about two mass shootings within 24 hours of each other made me think twice about beginning my examination of this year's Emmy Awards nominees as today's Sunday entertainment feature.  I just wasn't in the mood for anything that frivolous.

Then I remembered that I was planning on beginning with the nominees for Outstanding Commercial, which usually feature one or more serious public service announcements (PSAs) such as "The Talk, which won last year.  Maybe I could find a nominee that could resolve my ambivalence.  Sure enough, I found one of the nominees works perfectly for today's top news and my conflicted mood, Point Of View | Sandy Hook Promise.

It’s class election day at Central Tate High and everyone has a point of view.

Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. SHP’s mission is to prevent gun violence and other forms of violence and victimization BEFORE they can happen. SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the “human side” of gun violence by preventing individuals from ever getting to the point of picking up a firearm to hurt themselves or others. Our words, actions, and impact nationwide are intended to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation. Make the Promise and learn more at https://www.sandyhookpromise.org.

"Point of View" is nominated for an Emmy in the “Outstanding Commercial 2019" category.
As chilling as that PSA is, it made me feel better about my choice of topic for today's entry.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the nominees for Outstanding Commercial at this year's Creative Arts Emmy Awards, all of which have a higher purpose beyond selling a product.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

An update on record low U.S. birth rate during 2018


Yesterday, I saw a lot to remind me of U.S. birth and fertility rates continue falling and setting record lows for Father's Day.  First, I gave it and the rest of the top posts from June 2019 social media boosts for #FlashbackFriday.  It was the entry that appeared in the most categories for the month.  The entry was the 7th most read entry posted during June 2019 and 9th overall with 288 default and 332 raw page views.  It also tied for second most commented on entry during the month with four, and tied for most replies to a single tweet during June 2019 with 3 replies in 1 thread.  Impressive.  Second, Wochit News posted an update on U.S. birth rates with Birth Rates At An All Time Low.

New data from the National Vital Statistics System shows birth rates are at an all-time low in the United States.
There were just 59.1 births for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 in 2018.
Experts worry this could eventually result in a "demographic time bomb," says Business Insider.
Such a time bomb would mean fertility rates decrease at the same time longevity increases.
This decreases the workforce as well as the number of people able to stimulate the economy.
The trend represents some societal shifts, like a decrease in teenage pregnancies and unlivable wages.
On the one hand, the U.S. is doing its part to slow down population growth.  On the other hand, a possible shrinking economy in the future, which is bad for business as usual.  It's time to be a good environmentalist and recycle what I wrote last year.
I have been in favor of zero population growth for as long as I can remember.  However, I'm not sure the U.S. economy is set up for a stable or slowly declining population, a point I made in the Hipcrime Vocab: Why Slowing Population Growth is a Problem.  We are going to have to figure how to do so.  Otherwise, I might live long enough to experience the wisdom of the saying "Be careful what you wish for; you might get it."
Here's to hoping the U.S. learns how to thread that needle.

R.I.P. L. Brooks Patterson, 1939-2019


Original at Oakland County Times.

Long-time Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has died.  WXYZ has a video tribute.


WXYZ had no description other than the video title, but the local papers have lots of pithy quotes in their obituaries.  First, The Detroit News.
“It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of our friend and county executive, L. Brooks Patterson,” Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald D. Poisson said. “He was a once-in-a-generation leader whose vision inspired all of us to be part of the best county government in America.”
...
"Our dad was a courageous fighter all his life and he fought right up until the end," [Mary] Warner said. "Our family is grieving over the unimaginable loss of our father, grandfather, hero, and friend. Many will remember him for his impact on Michigan and generosity toward Oakland County. We'll remember him for his love and generosity toward his family and friends."
...
“It’s been a great run,” said David Vanderveen, director of central services, including the county airport, who had been with Patterson since 1993. “He supported his people, which is great for a leader, and when he came in, he said: ‘We are going to work hard and play hard.’ And we have.”
...
“For a half-century, Brooks Patterson, despite never holding statewide office, has been the most prominent person in Michigan politics, with the possible exception of (former Detroit mayor) Coleman Young,” said [William] Ballenger, who puts out the digital website The Ballenger Report.
Just as he's the last person I quoted from The Detroit News article, Ballenger is the first person I quote from the article at the Detroit Free Press.
“Certainly, in Oakland County, he was clearly the iconic, dominant figure of the past half century,” said longtime political analyst William Ballenger. “He was synonymous with what Oakland County came to be and to represent.”
...
“He’s going to be remembered for his tremendous public service, leading one of the most successful counties in the nation,” said former Republican Gov. John Engler, a longtime friend and political ally. "Even when there was weakness around it. He can be very proud of AAA bond rating, the technology leadership and he helped create a jobs engine in the state. There are an awful lot of lives that are better because of Brooks’ leadership.”
...
"You cannot dispute his leadership abilities and his desire to make Oakland County the premier county in the country,” [Former Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett] said. "While we always disagreed on policy, he’s an extremely jovial, likable man with a bigger than life personality, who’s really been a champion for Oakland County.”
While I disagreed with Patterson about sprawl, transit policy and redistricting, I have to acknowledge that he ran the county where I've worked since 1996 and lived since 2010 very well for the past 27 years.  May the county be as fortunate with his successor.

Speaking of which, The Detroit News reported that "Poisson will take the oath of office to serve as county executive until either the Oakland County Board of Commissioners appoints a successor within 30 days or a special election is held."  That has the potential to be very interesting politically, if not downright entertaining.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Crisis averted as Congress lifts debt ceiling for two years


I made a prediction in a comment on What Looms Behind at Kunstler's blog.*
While I agree with our host that the inevitable decline in tight oil production will usher in a repeat of 2007-2014, I suspect the attention of politicians and the media will be focused on a possible calamity that could happen much sooner, the U.S. bumping its head on the debt ceiling, which could happen in less than two months.  Nothing like a deadline or an execution to focus one's mind!
Focusing on a deadline paid off, as Congress took action in less than one month to suspend the debt ceiling for two years.  Of course, this will cause other problems, as Lisa Desjardins reported on PBS NewsHour last night in The long-term debt implications of Senate's new 2-year budget.

The Senate passed a new budget bill Thursday, delivering a rare bipartisan legislative agreement. But critics say the spending it allocates and its temporary suspension of the debt ceiling represent runaway spending and fiscal irresponsibility. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the huge numbers at play, who opposed the new budget and the different types of spending it reflects.
I foresaw a lot of this coming when I wrote The tax bill and the U.S. economy in 2018 and beyond two years ago, when I wrote "Both the deficit and national debt will be larger."  That was for 8-10 years from now, but it's already beginning to happen and this deal, which is politically necessary (neither side wants to have a combined budget and debt ceiling crisis in the middle of an election), will likely speed it up.

Yahoo! Finance had a livelier but less informative discussion of the news in Senate passes two-year budget deal on debt ceiling, which I'm including here for its unintentional comedy value.

The new deal is expected to be signed by President Trump will raise federal spending and allow the government to continue borrowing money.
It's "the chickens come home to roost," not the roosters, although they're chickens, too.  On the other hand, "when the cows come home" has the implication that its a long way off.  May that be true.

*Kunstler himself responded to my comment with "The debt ceiling problem is just another facet of the energy quandary."  In the long run, it is.  In the short run, I think other causes are more important.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

CNBC warns that Bed Bath & Beyond is 'facing extinction,' a tale of the Retail Apocalypse


Charming Charlie declaring bankruptcy and announcing it will close all its stores was a tale of the Retail Apocalypse that surprised me last week.  So did the following news from CNBC that the channel uploaded less than an hour ago: Why Bed Bath And Beyond Is Facing Extinction.

Bed Bath and Beyond became a massive homegoods retailer with a decentralized structure and a focus on keeping customers happy. In popular imagination, Bed Bath and Beyond is best known for its generous coupon policy. But critics say the once ubiquitous chain ignored the threat from newer, nimbler online rivals like Amazon.
Yikes!  Bed Bath & Beyond wasn't even on my radar as a chain that was facing trouble from Amazon and other online retailers as well as its own internal issues.  Thanks to CNBC, now I know.

The CNBC video talked a lot about the chain's losses and lower same-store sales, but didn't mention store closings.  It turns out that, as USA Today reported in April, Bed Bath & Beyond plans to close at least 40 stores this year but open 15 new locations.
The New Jersey-based home goods retailer, which also operates Buy Buy Baby, Harmon Face Values and World Market, announced mixed results during its fourth-quarter call with financial analysts this week.

"We expect to open approximately 15 new stores in fiscal 2019. This will be offset by a minimum of approximately 40 stores we expect to close," Robyn D'Elia, chief financial officer and treasurer, said during Wednesday's earnings call. "This number will grow unless we are able to negotiate more favorable lease terms with our landlords."

D'Elia said most of the "planned closures are for Bed Bath & Beyond stores."
Compared to a lot of chains in trouble, a net loss of 25 stores out of more than 1,000 hardly registers.  I'm not terribly worried that the nearest location, just a little more than two miles west of me, is going to close any time soon.  I also think that the chain is facing a crisis, but it's not in imminent danger of going out of business.  Still, it's a sign that issues with brick-and-mortar are spreading beyond dead malls and the businesses associated with them, including chain restaurants

That reminds me; remember the list of stores by category that are likely to close by 2026 in 12,000 stores are likely to close this year, including at least 313 Fred's, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse?  The USA Today article reported the total could be even worse.
The brick-and-mortar downturn is expected to continue, according to a report released this week from UBS Securities. Investment bank analysts said 75,000 more stores would need to be shuttered by 2026 if e-commerce “penetration rises from 16% currently to 25%.”
Wow!  As I wrote last month, "Looks like I'll be busy covering the Retail Apocalypse for quite a while."

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Drinks for the candidates who didn't make the debates


Yesterday, I promised
to share drinks for the candidates who are still campaigning, but haven't made either debate.  I'm following through, not because I expect they'll make any future debates, but because I want their supporters to have something to drink while they're watching other candidates debate. I also want to be prepared for when they eventually drop out, just as I did for Eric Swalwell earlier this month.  Follow over the jump for the candidates and their drinks.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Michigan media excited about covering this week's Democratic debates


With the second round of Democratic presidential debates here in Detroit tonight and tomorrow, the local media is having a field day covering them and enjoying having the national spotlight shining on Michigan and especially on Detroit.  I begin with WDIV setting up the coverage and explaining what's at stake in Preparing for Detroit's Democratic presidential debates.

CNN is airing the Democratic National Committee-sanctioned debates live from the Fox Theatre in Detroit at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
WDIV did a good job of setting things up and capturing the reactions of people on the street.  However WXYZ excels at interviewing the residents of Metro Detroit.  Watch TONIGHT: First of two Democratic debates in Detroit for more spontaneous reactions from locals as well as the preparations the city is making or the debate.


Jennifer Ann Wilson previewed the topics in the next video, Detroit: First of 2 Democratic debates tonight.


Yes, these debates are like the Hunger Games (or the Hungry for Power Games) in that they will eliminate candidates (tributes) as they go along.  WOOD-TV made that an explicit focus in its segment, 2nd Dem debate will be some candidates' last chance to shine.

Democrats gathering in Detroit for a pivotal presidential debate will have to decide, once again, how to respond to President Donald Trump while presenting their own vision for the country.
For supporters of the candidates who made this week's debates, I have drinks for the Democratic candidates, including a few for Steve Bullock, who replaced Eric Swalwell in the second round.  As for the candidates who made neither debate, I plan on posting drinks for them tomorrow.  Stay tuned.